Thursday, 18 March 2010

Cubana, Waterloo

With its showgirl from the world-famous Tropicana greating customers and passersby alike, it's hard not to notice Cubana at the north end of Lower Marsh.

Opened in 1939 in Marianao, a suburb of Havana, the Tropicana cabaret still draws crowds to its elaborate shows. I don't think we'll be going there but for the next few weeks we'll be appreciating the many cultural, architectural, and culinary delights the Caribbean island has to offer, as well as the hospitality of the Cuban people. So see you after Easter!

Location: Lower Marsh / Picture taken on: 10/04/2008

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Newton, Teddington

As promised earlier, the sign on this post number 101 has been far less photographed than the Brymay one at New Cross. It is also far less eye-catching, in terms of size and colour at least, because if we consider the lettering, it is particularly artistic. The first couple of times I passed by Teddington I didn't even see it. It was only while on a bus on a rainy day that I suddenly noticed it. I made a note of it and yesterday I finally made a detour to take some pictures.
Unfortunately, as I thought, the view from the street was partly obscured by the roof of the shop next door. Therefore the only way to get a picture of the whole sign was to get onto a double-decker bus. Obviously the first three buses that came were single-deckers. Then a 281 arrived but all the seats on the front row were taken. That meant another 8 minutes to wait. In the end another 281 with free seats by the front window appeared. By then I was the first one in the queue, and while a few elderly people slowly got on, I could take my photos. The dirty window and the vibrations from the bus didn't help to take a great picture but at least it was good enough to be able to read the lower part of the sign.

This is in fact a real palimpset, with three layers at least, and putting the different texts together isn't easy.

What seems to go definitely together is:
Newton & Co

Then there is:
Open From
9. a.m. Til 8. p.m.
Day [or Bay]
Electric Lights

Maybe I should have another look later. I'll keep you posted if I manage to get something else out of this sign.

Location: Broad Street / Picture taken on: 15/03/2010

Brymay, New Cross

That's it! After roughly eight months, this is my 100th post. I hope you've enjoyed all those painted signs and mosaics shown on this blog so far. Today's sign is well-known (I can already tell you the next one isn't. Wait and see...) but I needed something to light the candles on the celebration cake.

Fading adverts for Bryant & May, the country's leading manufacturer of matches for more than a century, can be still seen in many places. These were painted after the Second World War. Their design is simple, the only 'extravagance' being the oval in which the company's name, in its shortened form, is written. It seems the company preferred to promote itself rather than the specific brands under which it sold its matches, be they Captain Webb, Puck or Swan Vestas (elaborate and colourful signs for the latter would certainly have been much more expensive to produce).

British Matches
British Homes
Save the Panels

As I have little time today I'll post more information about Bryant & May in a later post. After all, there is no lack of Brymay painted signs!

Location: Alpha Road / Pictures taken on: 23/07/2009

Monday, 15 March 2010

Colliss & Sons, fishmongers and poulterers, Littlehampton

After a short escapade to the continent, I'm back on English soil with today's sign. Back in the 1860s, I could have taken from Dieppe or Le Havre a paddle steamer bound for Littlehampton. Indeed following the arrival of the railway from London, a regular service opened between the West Sussex harbour and the Channel Islands and France. However after two decades the number of passengers declined, many prefering the shorter crossings from Dover or Newhaven. A freight-only service was kept for a few more years but by the early twentieth century, the company ceased all traffic. For decades the Steam Packet by the River Arun stood as a reminder of the service to the continent but even that pub has now shut down. I know this blog isn't about pub signs, but I found this one particularly attractive.

For a ghost sign, I have to walk down the High Street to reach this well-preserved example.

Colliss & Sons.
The Old Establd
Fishmongers & Poulterers
& Licensed Dealers in Game.

Location: Surrey Street, Litlehampton, West Sussex / Picture taken on: 11/04/2009

Friday, 12 March 2010

Dubonnet, and 'Caves de Monmousseau', Montrichard

Today we cross the Channel to look at not one but three extremely colourful signs found in Montrichard, a small town on the north bank of the river Cher. Painted just outside the historic centre on the main approach from the north, they are pretty hard to miss by anyone coming from Blois. However since we came from the west and were going east along the river, they weren't on our way. Luckily it was hot that day and after exploring the centre of the town and climbing to the ruins of the medieval castle we all thought we should get some fresh drink. Having no time to sit in a cafe, we went to pick some fruit juice from the cool shelves of the local supermarket, and as we entered the car park, those flashy colours appeared!

The upper sign is for the Caves Monmousseau (the Monmousseau Caves or Cellars), situated just to the west of Montrichard. In 1886 Alcide Monmousseau purchased an abandoned stone quarry and transformed it into one of France's largest wine cellars. You can learn more about the history of the company and their different types of wine by visiting their website (in English).

Visitez les caves
Direction Vierzon [*]

*: Vierzon is widely known in France and other French speaking countries thanks to Belgian singer Jacques Brel. It is the first town mentioned in Vesoul.

The sign in the middle reads:
Quincaillerie [Ironmonger's]
... à droite [... street on the right]

As for the third sign, which was painted twice, it is for what used to be a well-known aperitive: Dubonnet. First sold in 1846, and still available today, it is made of fortified wine, spices, herbs, and quinine. It owes its fame largely to the posters designed by Cassandre (real name Adolphe Jean Marie Mouron). They first appeared in 1932 and featured the slogan "Dubo, Dubon, Dubonnet", which in French sounds like "Something nice, Something good, Dubonnet." In the 1950s and 1960s, commuters on the Paris métro could see the slogan expand as the trains made their way through the tunnels. An early version of those screens where the images move roughly at the same speed as the train (they haven't arrived on the London tube yet, but I saw plenty in Beijing).
Actually I've never tried any Dubonnet, so I can't tell you what it tastes like. There used to be a bottle in the aperitive cupboard at my grand parents' but I can't remember anyone ever drinking any. I shall check next time whether it is still there, hidden behind the more popular Sauternes, Pineau des Charentes, Martini, Whisky, or the homemade raspberry or peach liquors (my favourites as a kid...). As one of the characters created by writer Didier Daeninckx in Metropolice says: "everybody knew it, but nobody drank it."

As I took a closer look, I realized there was not only the name of the firm that painted the Dubonnet sign (Publicité Cheveau à Blois), but also a fouth sign there! Unfortunately it has almost completely disappeared but the letters 'Mon' could suggest this was an earlier sign for the Caves Monmousseau. Maybe?

Location: Route de Blois, Montrichard, Loir-et-Cher / Pictures taken on: 29/05/2009

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Car service, Clapham

Near Clapham is a series of four wonderful painted signs on what used to be a garage. They date from the first decades of the twentieth century. Each part of the wall was painted twice if not three times.

(in large letters)

(in small black letters)
Battery Charging

(in large letters)

(in small black letters)
...e. beat...

(in small pinkish letters)
... Building [?]

(in large letters)
Many Brands
Of Cars

Something else was painted in small black letters and possibly in (now) pinkish ones.

There is definitely an 'S' and a 'A' here, with something in between. Looking at lists of old car manufacturers, one that could possible fit is 'Spartan', but it seems this US car maker produced vehicles for a very short time only c 1910.

On the first sign, Essex certainly doesn't refer to the English county but rather to the Essex cars manufactured first by the Essex Motor Company (1918-1922) and then by the Hudson Motor Company (1922-1932).

Location: Landor Road / Pictures taken on: 10/10/2008

Ingersoll Watch Co. Ltd., Aldwych

The information available of the web about the Ingersoll Watch Company in the UK is patchy to say the least.
In 1882 brothers Robert Hawley and Charles Henry Ingersoll launched a mail order business based in New York City. Ten years later they began supplying watches and in 1896 they introduced the 'Yankee', priced at US$1. In 1904 Ingersoll opened a store in London and set up a subsidiary company. Originally parts were imported from the US and assembled here, but it was decided later to manufacture watches for the UK market entirely at the new factory, near Angel tube station. In the US Ingersoll collapsed during the recession that followed the First World War but in the UK the company managed to survive. It had its headquarters at the appropriately-named Ingersoll House at 7-9 Kingsway, and it is at the back of that particular building that the sign below can be seen.
After the Second World War Ingersoll joined forces with Smiths Industries Ltd and, temporarily, Vickers Armstrong to form the Anglo-Celtic Watch Company Ltd, which opened a brand new factory in Ystradgynlais near Swansea. In 1969 Ingersoll pulled out of the venture.

Ingersoll Watch Co Ltd
Goods Entrance
4 Kean Street
(Originally the same text was painted using a serif typeface)

Even though I had walked along Kean Street on countless occasions before 2008, I had failed to notice this sign. Then one day I had a last look at the back of Crown House next door, which was about to be demolished, and spotted it.

Location: Kean Street / Picture taken on: 08/10/2008

Monday, 8 March 2010

Hovis, Guildford

I started doing a bit of research for a post about bread brands Hovis and Daren, but it isn't quite ready yet and I've got a few lectures to prepare first. Still I couldn't resist posting the sign below. I saw it yesterday at the beginning of a walk that took us through the North Downs and along the Tillingbourne. I must admit I had never come across a Hovis sign with such a design.


Unfortunately whatever else was written has now completely faded.

Location: Chapel Street, Guildford, Surrey / Picture taken: 07/03/2010

Friday, 5 March 2010

Take Courage, Southwark

How many people realise that in Southwark, between Southwark Bridge and the Cannon Street railway bridges stood what was once the largest brewery in the world? Nowadays few buildings of the Anchor brewery are still standing, but among those that escaped demolition is this house built around 1807 for senior employees.

The familiar slogan must have been painted at some time after 1955, the year Barclay, Perkins & Co. merged with its London rival Courage.

Much has been written over the past two centuries about the brewery. For a short history you can refer to Chapter 9 of Survey of London. Vol. 22 edited by Sir Howard Roberts and Walter H. Godfrey and published in 1950. Edward Walford wrote a longer account of the development of the brewery in 1878 in Old and New London (Vo. 6) (the part about the brewery starts about one third down the page). Much information can also be found by checking the articles about the different owners of the brewery on the website

The brewery closed in 1981 and the land was subsequently sold for redevelopment. The Anchor (sadly over-redeveloped) and this painted sign are two of the few reminders of what used to be a major industrial site in the heart of London.

Location: Park Street / Pictures taken on: 10/04/2008 and 25/03/2008

Kay's motors, West Norwood

Sometimes so many signs have been painted on one wall that identifying each layer becomes virtually impossible. They overlap, parts that could go together don't necessarily if the design of the letters is taken into account,... The wall below is a good example of such an intriguing mess.

The most recent sign was painted in the lower part of that wall and is fairly easy to read:

Smith's GaragePrivate
Lock Ups

Then there are those giant letters:


That could make sense but 'Motors' is written differently. No perspective and a smaller font, so it may not go with the rest.

A close look reveals that 'Kay's' was painted over what looks like

...mbl... [Wimbledon?]

As for those words written in red on top of everything else and in the lower part of the wall they read:

Racing ...
Jotale... [whatever that could be]

These words may actually go with the 'Stadium' part above. Indeed if it is 'Wimbledon Stadium' that is written, then it could refer to the greyhound races that have been staged there since 1928.

Finally it looks as if there could be a few more letters here and there. If you have any suggestion, don't hesitate to leave a comment.

Location: Norwood High Street / Picture taken on: 01/03/2010

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Gardiner's, Tooting

On Monday I was doing some research in the Wandsworth Local History Library on Lavender Hill, when I came across a picture taken on 4th November 1911, the day the memorial to King Edward VII at the junction of Tooting High Street and Mitcham Road was unveiled. Clearly visible in the background was a painted sign that has survived to this day (actually the picture is available online).

Drapery Stores
Mourning Warehouse
Dressmaking & Millinery
A Speciality
Orders Promptly Executed
At the Shortest Notice

There is another sign (maybe more) but apart from
General &
(the latter line being written across in large letters), and a few letters here and there, I can't tell what it was for. Maybe I'll come across a picture of it next time I am the Local History Library...?

Location: Tooting High Street / Picture taken on: 07/03/2008

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

PearKs, South Norwood

Many doorstep mosaics have elaborate lettering and writing, but this one is also pretty unusual, with its penultimate letter being a capital and a very twisting 's' afterwards that almost ends up forming a '2' below.

Location: Portland Road / Picture taken on: 17/06/2008

Guinness, Balham

If the new building mentioned in the previous post hid one sign, it led to the reappearance of another one. Indeed since the billboard could no longer be seen by the passing public, the ad agency it belonged to removed it and the painted sign below resurfaced. I had taken a picture of it when the block was being built but it was largely hidden by scaffoldings. At least now we have a much better view! Shame the upper part is still under that brown coat of paint.

Actually there are at least two adverts for the Irish stout. The older one included the slogan:
There's Nothing
Like A

As for the more recent sign, which ends with the classic
Is Good For you
it is a bit more problematic. Indeed in the part above, which is only partly visible, the second word is most certainly 'Guinness' but I can't make what the first word is. Four letters apparently, but I couldn't find a slogan that had a four-letter word followed by 'Guinness'. So maybe they don't go together and there are in fact three signs here...?

Location: Balham High Road / Picture taken on: 01/03/2010

Always on the best of terms, Balham

Yesterday I went though the southeastern part of the metropolis, looking for some new signs along the way, and taking new pictures of some I already knew (but this time I got better shots as trees don't have leaves yet). On my way back I didn't pay much attention and jumped on the wrong bus. Not that it mattered as it took me to Balham and gave me the opportunity to take a better picture of a Guinness sign. Unfortunately I also noticed that the one that stood next to it is now barely visible. It hasn't been damaged but a new block of flats has been erected close to the wall it was painted on.

There are clearly several signs painted here and it is hard to tell which parts go together.
Always on the best of terms!
... mum ever
...endly footing
To Furnish
There are a few more letters here and there but I can't make much sense of them.

Location: Balham High Road / Picture taken on: 07/03/2008